Iowa-American Phase III Hawk Prototype, Newton (IA) Fire Department

LADDER 56, NEWTON (IA) FD. Tanner Owen (bottom photo, with a new Hawk Tool he got for graduating from his paramedic program) was, for several years, a member of the Nevada Community Fire Department, my long-time affiliation. He is one of a long string of gung-ho Nevada firefighters who have found their way into the career fire service. Soon after his arrival at Newton, he sent several photos of the small, working museum of Iowa-American tools carried on the department’s Ladder 56 (photo below). I’ll address some of the tools at a later time. I’ve written about the beauteous “Chauffeur’s Pike Axe” elsewhere ( and will expand on that topic and others in the future. For now, Ladder 56’s toolbox provides a platform for writing about Iowa-American’s terrific impact on the fire equipment industry. I’ll start here with some attention to the phase III Hawk prototype that’s shown in the top and left bottom photos.

The focus here will be on Newton’s phase III Hawk tool prototype. Judging from the small, raised “IAF” (Iowa-American Foundry) cast into the body of the tool, this would appear to have been produced in the late 1980s or early ’90s. This is also around the time that Iowa-American (IA-AM) introduced its Multi-Length Hook System (MLHS)– parts of which are shown in the photo at the top of the tool compartment.

Among the parts of Newton’s MLHS is their Hawk, phase III prototype. It’s also shown separately. Here,¬†the Hawk Tool design process was at a significant transition point. In one piece, you could clearly see both the initial influences of the Halligan hook and, for the first time, hints of the future Hawk Tool’s own distinct identity. With discovery of the idea of joining a downwardly-curved longitudinal blade with a second, transverse (“cross-cut”) blade, the design of the tool really took off and became its own unique tool.

But, phase III was also a frustrating time for me. I would have liked all the various design steps to stay under wraps, shared only with Iowa-American and the guys that I taught with. Instead, virtually everything that was actually developed to a test-bed prototype was immediately added to the catalog for sale, warts and all. The phase II prototype was named the Multi-Function Hook (Model MHF-1) and entered in the catalog. Virtually overnight, the phase III prototype was also given a name– “Falcon”– and added to the catalog, Model FT-1. Inexplicably, despite their numerous imperfections and functional shortcomings, both remained in the catalog as separate, and distinct offerings until the company’s dissolution in the early 2000s. Frustrating. Yet, all whining aside, it has left behind a terrific physical trail of the Hawk Tool’s history that is fun to talk and write about.

Thanks to the Newton firefighters and Tanner Owen, in particular (who got a Hawk tool for graduating from his paramedic class) for these photos and their long-term commitment to the tools.